Nick Carr on June 14, 2018 0 Comments Photo Credit: New Belgium Brewing Quick Characteristics Brewery New Belgium Brewing Company Location Fort Collins, CO Style American IPA ABV 7.0% IBU 55 Hops Nugget, Cascade, Simcoe & HBC 522 Malts Pale, White Wheat & Midnight Wheat Other Ingredients Hemp Hearts (and Natural Flavor) Shelf Life 6 months Suggested Glass IPA Glass or Tulip Serving Temp 46-50°F Availability Year Round Food Pairings Spicy Sausage, Cheeseburger With All the Trimmings, Blue Cheese, Pine Nut Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting I have to say, I was pretty excited when I first heard New Belgium would be putting out an IPA brewed with hemp. The only other beer I’ve tried that made use of the plant is Humboldt Brewing’s Brown Hemp Ale, and it remains one of my favorite. Hops and hemp are two sides of the same aromatic and beer flavor coin. They are genetically related and both produce some of the same flavor compounds, so using hemp to up the dank, herbal elements of a beer shouldn’t be that surprising. Numerous breweries have used the aromas and flavors offered by hemp to drive their vision of an IPA; working to get that same dank, cannabis-like end, without taking the plunge, using the plant, and dealing with the regulation headaches. And there are a few other breweries, beyond Humboldt, have added hemp to a brew, but most are limited distribution or brewery-only specials. The Hemperor is the first hemp beer to get national distribution…. well, almost. The strict laws in Kansas make the beer illegal. It took New Belgium over two years to create this beer. Much of that time was, according to New Belgium’s Research and Development Brewer, Ross Koenigs as quoted in several articles, “spent learning and reacting to laws that really suppress this crop’s usage.” The brewery’s original vision was to use hemp flowers and leaf matter, but this was quickly shot down by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the DEA. Undeterred they went back to the drawing board and came up with a different tack. Hemp hearts (the inside of hemp seeds) are not restricted, so the brewery used a combination of hearts and a mixture of natural flavorings to get there. Though the actual flavor recipe is (of course) a secret, they did visit things like grapefruit and pine sap during the process. With this beer, New Belgium hopes it hasn’t just created another gimmicky IPA. The Hemperor is the tip of the spear in a campaign to bring awareness to this harmless, extremely useful, yet much maligned crop. To this end, they are donating 1 dollar per barrel of Hemperor sold to Hemp for Victory. Ok, enough of that. Let’s get to the beer! THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking New Belgium’s The Hemperor HPA. If you’ve tasted this beer or you have one in front of you while you read this review, please share your thoughts with everyone down in the comments below. The Pour: The Hemperor falls into the glass a deep gold with a brassy tinge. A small off-white head forms (maybe half a finger), but crashes almost immediately leaving fizzing islands of bubbles. Clarity is superb and a moderate amount of carbonation trails off the bottom. The Aroma: The aroma? Well, you’ll smell it as soon as you pop the cap. Pungent Dankness. Herbal. Weedy. Burnt Match. All of the above. There’s also some pine and low citrus, but very little malt in the profile. The Mouthfeel: Body is medium and the beer is incredibly smooth across the palate, almost slick and slightly coating. There’s a light astringency toward the back. The Taste: The dank element is certainly there in the flavor, but not to the extent it presents in the aroma. Slightly sweet at the front; once-in-a-while that sweetness seems to have a honey-like vibe. Mild bread dough. Little bit of citrus, too. Mid-palate the hops and hemp take over, bringing all their herbal earthy glory. The finish is drying and lightly bitter. Aftertaste is piney, almost resin-like. FINISHING THOUGHTS I enjoyed this IPA. It’s a good change from the string of fruity IPAs enjoying so much popularity these days. The dank and herbal quality of this brew is immediately noticeable, even before it hits the glass. And that’s its draw, right? That’s what we came for. Luckily, the flavor steps down a couple notches from the aroma. It would have been too strong, at least in my opinion, otherwise. Even so, I can see taste buds tiring of the dank, palate-deadening bombardment of this beer. I’d drink two… but then I think I’d have to take a break. If possible you may want to buy a single Hemperor, before springing for the six-pack. But, if you’re looking for a change from the fruit IPAs, or if your IPA motto happens to be “the danker, the better” than this one’s for you.